On This Date: Knicks acquire Truck Robinson

July 7th 1982: The New York Knicks trade for Truck Robinson

The New York Knicks opened up their 1982 offseason by acquiring Truck Robinson in trade with the Phoenix Suns for Maurice Lucas.

Before joining the Knicks, Truck was known as one of the top forwards in the league. The combination of his strength and quickness allowed him to play both forward positions with ease. His ability to make jump shots allowed him to attack the paint with ferocity. He was a two-time NBA All Star, with the New Orleans Jazz & Phoenix Suns respectively.

His best season was in 1978 when he averaged 22.7 points/game and 15.7 rebounds/game. He was the NBA rebounding champion that season and also made the All-NBA First Team.

At the time of the trade, Robinson averaged 19.1 points/game and 9.7 rebounds/game with the Suns in the previous season. With the Suns, Robinson still had the onus of carrying the team offensively and defensively. New coach Hubie Brown anticipated Truck to be a versatile forward for the team.

With Bernard King on the roster, Hubie decided to reduce Truck’s role to prioritize defense over offense. Unfortunately, his entire game suffered as a result. Truck’s points and rebounds per game both significantly declined. He averaged a near career worst 9.5 points/game and 8.1 rebounds/game in his first full season with the Knicks. Fans complained that they had a “truck with four flat tires” and would deride him with chants of “Dump Truck.”

Truck played another full season with the Knicks before retiring at the end of the 1984-85 season after missing all but two games with a broken bone in his foot.

On This Date: Knicks draft Micheal Ray Richardson

June 9th 1978: The New York Knicks draft Micheal Ray Richardson with the 4th overall pick in the 1978 NBA Draft

To a shock of a few people in Knicks land, the team drafted Micheal “Sugar” Ray Richardson with the 4th overall pick in the 1978 NBA Draft. The Knicks went into the draft looking for a center, a need glaring since Willis Reed’s retirement in 1974, and set their eyes on Rick Robey. However, the Indiana Pacers drafted Robey with the 3rd overall pick and the Knicks pivoted to Richardson afterwards.

After a solid rookie season, Richardson immediately thrusted into a perennial All-Star with the Knicks. He had a penchant for gathering triple double1 and stealing the ball with gusto. However, a combination of on-court and off-the court issues, including an excessive drug and partying habit, led the Knicks to trade him for Bernard King. Ironically, King recently recovered from an alcohol problem that plagued him during his early seasons with the Nets & Jazz.

One of the biggest regrets out of the draft obviously was what if the Knicks drafted Larry Bird instead of Sugar Ray. It’s important to note that at Bird intended to finish his collegiate career at Indiana. Many teams, including the Knicks weren’t willing to wait a year for Bird. At the time, teams had one full calendar to sign a player drafted in the previous season before the draft rights relinquished. The Celtics decided to wait for Bird to finish his senior year and signed him a week before the NBA Draft to a 5 year $3.25 million contract. The NBA subsequently changed the draft rules where teams were barred from drafting players before they were ready to sign. Essentially, collegiate players lost eligibility once the withdrawal date (May 29th in this draft) passed.

On This Date: Knicks hire Hubie Brown as head coach

May 20th 1982: Knicks hire Hubie Brown as head coach

Less than a week after Red Holzman announced his retirement, the Knicks hired Hubie Brown as the new head coach. Before gracing the NBA airwaves with his commentary and basketball tutorial videos, Hubie spent more than 4 seasons coaching the Knicks.

Hubie enjoyed decent success early on taking the Knicks to the semifinals in his first 2 seasons with the team. However, debilitating injuries to both Bill Cartwright (foot) and Bernard King (knee) put the Knicks on a downward spiral for the rest of his tenure. Patrick Ewing also missed 32 games during his rookie campaign due to various injuries, including his knee. Essentially Hubie never had a full squad after the 1983-84 campaign.

Additionally, his high intensity and rigid approach to coaching eventually wore off on the team. His insistence for 10 man rotations and a peculiar decision to play Ewing at power forward alongside Cartwright marked a disappointing end to his Knicks tenure. After the Knicks fired Hubie in 1986, he didn’t return to coaching until 2002 with the Memphis Grizzlies.

On This Date: Bernard King scores 44 to force a Game 7 against the Celtics

May 11th 1984: Bernard King scores 44 points to defeat the Celtics and force a Game 7

The New York Knicks needed a 44 point effort from Bernard King as they withstood Larry Bird’s 35 points and defeated the Celtics 106-104. The Knicks avoided elimination and forced a pivotal Game 7 in Boston. King scored 44 on a hyper-efficient 16-25 from the field and 12-15 from the free throw line.

The Knicks had a 13 point lead midway through the 4th quarter, but Boston clawed back into the game to be down 2 with less than 30 seconds to play. The Knicks’ defense pressured the Celtics into missing several game-tying shots.

King’s effort to will the Knicks remains one of the most clutch moments in Knick playoff history.

On This Date: Bernard King and Isiah Thomas play in one of the greatest Game 5’s in NBA History

April 27th 1984: Bernard King’s vs Isiah Thomas in Game 5 of the 1984 Eastern Conference Quarterfinals

Game 5 of the 1984 Eastern Conference Quarterfinals was one of the greatest games in NBA Playoff history. Bernard King came into the series-deciding game with the flu and two dislocated middle fingers. Despite those ailments, King was able to score 40 points through the end of regulation.

However, with the Knicks up 8 with 1:34 remaining, Isiah Thomas staged one of the most amazing comebacks in NBA history. Isiah scored 16 points in 94 seconds to force the game into overtime.

Fortunately, King scored 4 more points in overtime to help the Knicks defeat the Pistons 127-123 in Game 5 to advance to the Semifinals. King scored 44 points on 17-26 from the field and grabbed 12 rebounds. Isiah Thomas had a double double with 35 points and 12 assists. During the series, King averaged 42.6 points/game on more than 60% from the field, scoring 40 points a game from Games 2-5.

The Knicks would matchup with Larry Bird and the Boston Celtics in the Semifinals. The Celtics would defeat the Knicks in 7 games. Unlike the matchup with the Pistons, King would not be able to replicate the multiple consecutive 40 point efforts.

 

On This Date: Bernard King scores 46 points to secure a Game 3 Victory against the Pistons

April 22nd 1984: Bernard King scored 46 points to defeat the Pistons in Game 3 of the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals

Days after Bernard King scored 46 points in a Game 2 loss, he scored 46 again in a 120-113 Game 3 victory at home. King was literally unstoppable on offense, hitting 19-27 from the floor and 8-12 from the foul line. He went head-to-head with Kelly Tripucka (former MSG studio analyst) who also had 40 points. Unlike Game 2, King received some help on the offensive end. The Knicks had 6 players score in double figures, including King, Cartwright (20 points), & Rory Sparrow (14 points). King & Sparrow had double doubles with 10 rebounds and 10 assists respectively.

The Pistons only scored 36 points in the 1st half and trailed by 18 points. They, however, climbed back in the 2nd half and scored a team record 77 points in the 2nd half.

This game marked a stretch of 4 straight 40 point games for King. He would score 40 points 6 times during the Knicks’ 1984 playoff run.

On This Date: Patrick Ewing sets the Knicks all-time single season scoring record

April 20th 1990: Patrick Ewing sets the Knicks single season scoring record

Despite the fact that the Knicks lost 126-112 to the Atlanta Hawks, Patrick Ewing had a momentous night in setting the team’s all-time scoring record. He broke the Knick record of 2,303 points held by Richie Guerin.

Ewing ended up with 2,347 points scored on an average of 28.6 ppg. Ewing also played the entire regular season which itself was a remarkable feat of durability. The 28.6 ppg only ranks 4th on the all-time scoring list. Bernard King holds the Knicks record with 32.9 ppg, but was bedeviled by the unfortunate ACL injury that shortened his season. Guerin scored 29.5 ppg in his record-setting season, but only played in 78 games. Carmelo Anthony led the NBA with 28.7 ppg in the 2012-13 season, but only played in 67 regular season games.

Ewing’s scoring record to this date is quite impressive especially due to his ability to be durable. In an era where “load management” is routine rather than reviled, it’s hard to see Ewing’s record broken anytime soon.

On This Date: Bernard King returns after a 2 year absence from his devastating knee injury

April 10th 1987: Bernard King returns after a 2 year absence due to injury

Bernard King received a rousing ovation from the MSG faithful in his return to the basketball court against the Milwaukee Bucks. King missed more than 2 years recovering from a torn ACL, torn knee cartilage, and a broken leg bone.

Although the Bucks trounced the Knicks 132-93, King scored 7 points off the bench in 23 minutes of action. He spent the next game coming off the bench before returning to the starting lineup. King averaged nearly 23 points/game in the final 6 games of the 1986-87 season.

Sadly, Knicks fans never saw King & Patrick Ewing play together. Ewing was out for the remainder of the 1986-87 season after suffering a sprained left knee. After the season, the Knicks decided not to sign King to a new contract. There were various theories to why the Knicks refused to sign King, including feeling disappointed King was away from the team during his rehabilitation, fear of loss of athleticism, age, and preference to move in a rebuilding mode. None of those theories seemed to make sense at the time or in hindsight.

King nearly fully recovered from his injury to have 3 straight 20 ppg seasons with the Washington Bullets (including a remarkable 28.4 ppg in the 1989-90 season). The Knicks ultimately drafted Mark Jackson that began a stretch of 14 straight seasons in the playoffs. At the same time, the Knicks had a void at SF and even had to trade a 1st round pick to fill its need (Kiki Vandeweghe). It makes me wonder whether the Knicks should have just ponied up to keep him.

On this date: Bernard King scores 45 in victory against the Indiana Pacers

March 22nd 1985: Bernard King scores 45 points in a 118-113 victory against the Indiana Pacers

Bernard King dominated for the Knicks once again with 45 points, 12 rebounds, 5 assists, and 2 steals in a 118-113 victory on the road against the Indiana Pacers. King scored 45 on 16-29 from the field and 13-15 from the foul line.

The Knicks held a 17 point lead in the 1st half, but the Pacers, led by Clark Kellogg, Vern Fleming, & future Knick mainstay Herb Williams, cut the lead to 7 by the end of the 3rd quarter. Ultimately, King proved to be too much for the Pacers to handle and the Knicks held onto victory.

This game was part of King’s historic season where he averaged 32.9 points per game. King’s efforts were remarkable despite the fact that the Knicks were 24-46. Unfortunately, this was the last full game King played as he suffered a devastating knee injury in the next day against the then-Kansas City Kings. The injury would sideline him for nearly 2 seasons and ultimately marked the end of his run with the franchise.

On This Date: Knicks defeat the Spurs in Spree’s return to MSG

February 12th 2017: Latrell Sprewell and James Dolan bury the hatchet as the Knicks defeat the Spurs

The Knicks snapped a 4-game losing streak with a 94-90 victory against the San Antonio Spurs on a nationally televised broadcast. Carmelo Anthony led the way with 25 points (including 3 three-pointers), 7 rebounds, and 2 assists. Kristaps Porzingis scored 16 points and blocked 4 shots. Willy Hernangomez made his second start of the season and had 12 points, 9 rebounds, and 3 steals. Willy’s minutes increased steadily after a shoulder injury sidelined Noah for the remainder of the season.

Despite the victory, it off-the-court headlines dominated the story. Throughout the 2016-17 season, Phil Jackson sent veiled shots at Carmelo Anthony expressing disappointment that he’s not a “star” in the realm of a Michael Jordan or Kobe Bryant. Days before the game, Phil sent a cryptic tweet aimed at Melo:

Additionally, Charles Oakley was arrested only a few days earlier after an altercation with security personnel during the Knicks/Clippers game. Oakley allegedly hurled some parting shots at James Dolan. Dolan subsequently alerted security to escort him out. Oak was subsequently banned from MSG for one year.

To quell the PR backlash, Dolan decided to reconcile with Latrell Sprewell and ended their 13+ year feud. Spree sat courtside with Dolan, Bernard King, and Larry Johnson. Since the moment, Spree has spent plenty of games courtside at Madison Square Garden and participated in various Knicks charitable causes.

On This Date: Knicks break 15 game road losing streak

February 5, 1985: Knicks beat the Sonics on the road to break a 15-game road losing streak

In the midst of a tough 6-game road trip, with the first five games on the road, the Knicks snapped a 15-game road losing streak with a 110-108 victory against the Seattle Supersonics. Bernard King led the way for the Knicks with 29 points, 11 rebounds, and 7 assists. King scored 14 in the 1st half and scored 12 points in the final 8 minutes of the 4th quarter to help win the game. Additionally, Darrell Walker, future Knick assistant coach, had 18 points and 8 assists and made crucial defensive stops in the clutch.

The victory marked the first Knicks road victory since beating the Cavaliers on November 21st. The victory also snapped a 3-game losing streak, but the team lost 11 of their next 13 games. Things took a turn for the worse on March 23rd when Bernard King tore his ACL. The Knicks didn’t win a game for the remainder of the season. The true silver lining was that their 24-58 regular season record ultimately led the Knicks to the #1 Draft Pick to select Patrick Ewing.

On This Date: Knicks beat Kings without King

January 31st 1983: The New York Knicks, sans Bernard King, beat the Kansas City Kings

The New York Knicks routed the Kansas City Kings 114-97 despite the fact that Bernard King was inactive due to a sprained right ankle and Trent Tucker was held scoreless. 4 of the 5 starters scored at least 18 points to propel the team to victory. Power Forward Truck Robinson led the way with 21 points and had 5 assists. Paul Westphal shined on both the offensive and defensive end with 18 points, 6 assists, and 6 steals. Bill Cartwright had a double double with 18 points and 11 rebounds. Louis Orr replaced King in the starting lineup and scored 20 points.

The Knicks’ tenacious defense helped open up the game in the 2nd half. After only leading by 4 at half, the Knicks scored 31 points in each of the 3rd and 4th quarters to seal the victory. Their pressure defense led to an 18-2 run to start the 3rd fueled by 6 steals. Additionally, the team shot nearly 51% from the field in an efficient effort.

The 1982-83 Knicks, led by Bernard King and coached by Hubie Brown, made the playoffs and reached the Eastern Conference Semifinals where the eventual champion Philadelphia 76ers swept them in 4 games. Outside of the notable players (King, Cartwright, Tucker), there were a few interesting names on the roster and coaching staff.

Mike Fratello was an assistant coach on Hubie Brown’s staff for the 1982-83 season. He left to coach the Atlanta Hawks. Isiah Thomas almost considered hiring him as head coach after he fired Don Chaney. Future Knicks GM Ernie Grunfeld finished his NBA career with the Knicks in 1986. He then moved to covering the games on MSG before becoming assistant coach under Stu Jackson. He became GM of the Knicks in 1991.

The Knicks acquired Truck Robinson in a trade with the Suns for Maurice Lucas. Truck spent his final 2+ seasons with the Knicks, but notably helped the Knicks sweep the Nets in the first round of the 1983 playoffs. The Knicks acquired Louis Orr right before the season from the Indiana Pacers for a 2nd round pick in the 1983 NBA Draft. Orr spent 6 seasons with the Knicks and mostly produced off the bench except for Patrick Ewing’s rookie season (1985-86) with Bernard King sidelined due to injury.

Furthermore, future NBA coach Paul Westphal spent around 1.5 seasons with the Knicks. He spent most of his prime splitting time as a reserve with the Boston Celtics (winning a championship in 1974) and as a budding superstar with the Phoenix Suns. Westphal made 5 straight All-Star teams with the Suns and helped the team reach the finals in 1976. A foot injury in 1981 cut short his prime and he later joined the Knicks in 1982. Westphal went into coaching in both the NBA and NCAA. He enjoyed slightly more success in the NBA leading the 1992-93 Phoenix Suns to an NBA Finals in his first season. After Charles Barkley left the Suns in 1995, Westphal never seemed to recover the coaching magic achieved in the early stages of his career.

On This Date: Reflecting on the history between the Knicks and Christmas Day

For me, Christmas Day has meant a few habitual traditions: watch the Christmas Day Parade, spend time with family, eat plenty of food, and watch basketball. Yes, basketball.

In recent years, the NBA schedule makers were kind enough to place the Knicks back onto the Christmas schedule. The Knicks have played on Christmas in eight of the past nine seasons.  

The Knicks have played the most Christmas Day games so far, with 52 games in the 72-year history of the NBA leading into this season. Most of the matchups were held in Madison Square Garden. The Lakers unsurprisingly are right behind the Knicks with 43 Christmas Day matchups.

The Knicks are 22-30 on Christmas Day. They have one more win than the Lakers (21-22) and have the most losses out of any team.  It doesn’t help that the Knicks lost six of the eight previous matchups.

The Knicks held the first Christmas Day game in NBA history in 1947 against the Providence Steamrollers. The game was held at 9pm and broadcasted on WCBS. Stan Lomax and Bob Edge called the game. The Knicks won the game 89-75 in the original Madison Square Garden.  Tommy Byrnes scored 20 points and Carl Braun scored 19.

The 1980s featured 2 of the most memorable Christmas games ever. Bernard King scored a then franchise-record 60 points in a 120-114 loss against the New Jersey Nets in 1984. 

In 1985, rookie Patrick Ewing helped the Knicks overcome a 25-point deficit to beat the Boston Celtics in double overtime.

The NBA decided to start the 2011-12 season on Christmas Day due to the lockout. The Knicks hosted the Boston Celtics and TNT broadcasted the game. The game marked the debut of Tyson Chandler. Carmelo Anthony & Amare Stoudemire combined for 58 points and Tyson Chandler blocked 6 shots in the 106-104 victory.  

The most memorable moment came at the end when Bill (now Henry) Walker contested Kevin Garnett’s jumpshot to seal the victory. Garnett inexplicably choked Bill Walker after the buzzer. To no one’s surprise, the NBA decided not to punish Garnett for his actions.

 

On This Date: Bernard King returns to MSG as a Washington Bullets player and Jeff Van Gundy unexpectedly quits

December 8, 1987: Bernard Kings makes his first visit to MSG as a member of the Washington Bullets

Bernard King returned to Madison Square Garden for the first time as a Washington Bullet. The Knicks got the last laugh in a 116-92 blowout victory. King came off the bench to score 19 points in 32 minutes.

Patrick Ewing & Bill Cartwright combined for 52 points and simply overpowered the Bullets’ frontcourt. Mark Jackson nearly had a triple double with 8 points, 8 rebounds, and 11 assists.

King missed the entire 1985-86 season and all but 6 games of the 1986-87 season recovering from the torn ACL.  In the 6 games, King averaged 22.7 points a game and shot nearly 50% from the field.

However, the Knicks decided against re-signing Bernard King in the summer of 1987 for various reasons.  At the time, the Knicks were afraid that King wouldn’t fully recover from the knee surgery.  At the same time, the front office didn’t like that King did most of his rehabilitation away from the team and barely attended games during the stretch.  Furthermore, the Knicks committed to rebuilding with Patrick Ewing, Mark Jackson, & Kenny Walker, amongst others, and thought that King would be a deterrence to the development process.

Despite the Knicks’ qualms, King was able to make a near-full recovery and had several productive seasons after his Knicks tenure.  He made the 1991 All Star team and averaged 28.4 points/game that season, including a 49 point effort against the Knicks.

The Knicks had a short stint of success in the Rick Pitino era and spent a lot of effort looking for small forwards after King’s departure.  Perhaps Bernard King would have made a difference.


December 8, 2001:  Jeff Van Gundy unexpectedly quits

In a day that marked the downward spiral of the New York Knicks in the 2000s, Jeff Van Gundy (JVG) abruptly resigned after a 10-9 record to start the season. The team won 5 of their last 6 games heading into the resignation.

He was known as one of the hardest working coaches in the league.  Many of his former assistant coaches currently coaching in the NBA possess the same traits as him. Six + years of coaching at high intensity took a toll on Van Gundy and his family.  JVG, then 39, was married with a 6 year old daughter and often longed to spend more time with his family.

JVG felt he was losing the team as early as the 2000-01 season, the same reason the Knicks traded Ewing.  The team wasn’t playing with the same intensity that they were reputed for during the 90s.  He often questioned the team’s effort and publicly stated that the team was “mailing it in” during some of the games.

Additionally, Van Gundy dealt with tragedy close to home as two of his close friends, Farrell Lynch & Bill Minardi, were killed in the September 11th attacks.  The culmination of events leading up to the season were tough to overcome.

JVG left the Knicks with a 248-172 record.  He spent nearly 7 years as an assistant coach under Stu Jackson, John MacLeod, Pat Riley, & Don Nelson.  As a head coach, he led the Knicks to an unexpected NBA Finals run in 1999.  Despite the success, he was nearly fired on multiple occasions and dealt with a highly publicized feud with GM Ernie Grunfeld that led to the latter’s dismissal.  Furthermore, he outlasted both Patrick Ewing and Dave Checketts, leaving him with few allies internally in the organization.

Don Chaney took over for JVG as interim coach.  It’s safe to say the Knicks never recovered after his resignation during the decade.  Likewise, JVG has admitted that he shouldn’t have resigned.

On This Date: Bernard King scores 52 points to beat the Indiana Pacers

Before the days of Reggie Miller, Mark Jackson, the Davis duo, and Rik Smits, the Knicks & Pacers had drama-free games. For most of the 1980s, the Pacers mired themselves in the bottom of the standings while the Knicks made the playoffs for several seasons.

In this matchup, King scored 52 points, which marked a then-career high for him, along with 7 rebounds and 7 assists. He scored 52 points on 19-31 FGs and was 14-17 from the free throw stripe. This was the first of three 50 point games for him that season, including a 55-point effort the following February and a legendary 60-point outburst on Christmas day.

King forever remains one of the greatest scorers in NBA history. He possessed an uncanny explosiveness to drive to the rim, get to the foul line2 and punished defenders with a deadly midrange shot.  King was also able to do this with extreme proficiency, averaging more than 53% from the field during his Knicks tenure.

Even though King suffered a devastating ACL injury later in the season, his 1984-85 season – along with his Knicks tenure – was one of the greatest offensive performances seen in Knicks history.